The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Dayton, OH

Richard Yalman

Richard Yalman was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment and worked on polonium separation at the top-secret laboratories in Dayton, Ohio during the Manhattan Project.

Yalman grew up in Columbus, Ohio and became interested in chemistry after spending several summers hanging around the chemistry department at the nearby Ohio State University as a teenager. At the age of seventeen, Yalman received a scholarship to study chemistry at Harvard University and by twenty he was already into a Master's program.

Richard Yalman's Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It is January 27, 2015. I am in Santa Fe with Richard Yalman, and the first question I have for you is to say your name and spell it.

Richard Yalman: My name is Richard George Yalman, that’s Y-A-L-M-A-N.

Kelly: Perfect. Very good. Richard has a very interesting story to tell about his days in the Manhattan Project, but to put it in context, we want him to start with his birthday, where he was born and something about his childhood.

Mary Lou Curtis's Interview

[Many thanks to Bill Curtis for recording and donating this interview to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]

Mary Lou Curtis: When I got out of college, it was 1932 and a big Depression was on. Miami University, where I graduated from, only placed one teacher that year because jobs were so hard to find. I didn’t get a teaching job that first year, but I worked in the Miami University Library for I think maybe thirty cents an hour and managed to get through the year.

Mary Lou Curtis

Mary Lou Curtis joined the Manhattan Project at the Monsanto Research Corporation in Dayton, Ohio in 1943. Curtis worked in the Counting Room at Monsanto's Unit III facility, where she helped develop new methods to measure and analyze radioactive materials.

After the war, Curtis worked for Monsanto at Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg, Ohio where she continued to develop innovative methods to measure polonium and plutonium. She was considered to be one of the world's leading authorities in her field and published over twenty papers in several different scientific journals.

E.J. Reagan

E.J. Reagan joined Mound Laboratory in August 1948, where he worked as a doctor. He was responsible for monitoring the health and safety of Mound's employees, and he remained there until he retired from Monsanto in 1988.

Warren Sheehan

Warren Sheehan joined Mound Laboratory in April 1956. He spent the first half of his career in health physics, where he developed a new methodology for determining the amount of plutonium in urine. Sheehan replaced long-time Mound employee Mary Lou Curtis when she retired, and joined the Nuclear Operations Group.

Ken Foster

Ken Foster joined the Dayton Project in July 1948. He worked in an assay group at the Runnymeded Playhouse in Oakwood, where he conducted studies on the radiation properties of the polonium that was being manufactured there. Foster transferred to Mound Laboratories in January 1949 when the Project moved, and worked in the research department studying various alternate alpha-emitting materials such as actinium.


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